TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.
- For many members of the 104th, the Weapons System Evaluation Program deployment here will allow Airmen an opportunity work with live weapons and ammunition for the first time in a real world combat type environment.
Tech Sgt. Pat Sullivan, a Westfield native, is the weapons expeditor for the Weapons shop at Barnes and his role is to document and control munitions. “Our function, working with live ammunition, is different than our mission day to day at Barnes. There is more to consider here at WSEP, more accountability and maintenance than our typical missions,” he said. “ Things are going well and we are looking forward to a successful training TDY. So far, so good.”
Master Sgt. Kevin Leahy arrived as part of the advance group on April 5 and is happy to be here. “We have a good crew and WSEP is valuable training,” said the Saugerties, N.Y., resident. “The last three drills we used as a training block in preparation for this exercise. It really is on the job training for our people,” he added.
Having experienced unit members supervising the live training is an invaluable asset for the younger Airmen. Chief Master Sgt. Robert Beaulieu, weapons manager in charge of the weapons element, is a 22 year member of the Wing and a veteran of several overseas deployments. We will install missiles on the airplanes to shoot and upload bullets into the 20mm gun systems. We will be required to reconfigure the aircraft to meet the pilot’s needs prior to each sortie, said Beaulieu.
“The backshoppers (as they are called) are here and doing post flight inspections after missiles are launched. They will check out the jets and missile launchers, do inspections and troubleshoot any problems,” Beaulieu said.
Beaulieu emphasized the chief distinction between training at Barnes and here at Tyndall. “The difference here is we never shoot live missiles at Barnes-in that respect you are getting to check the systems on the plane to make sure everything works like it’s supposed to in a real world combat type scenario,” he said.
He recognizes that some people get a little nervous when live ammunition is used. “I tell them that you are trained to do your job, treat it as live all the time so when you are using lives, you are used to it,” he said. Overall his assessment is that the team is doing well, and a lot of valuable learning is taking place.